Jason Smith

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Bamba, Heat

While it may be a little too early to determine with certainty whether the Hornets will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer suggests in his latest mailbag that he expects the team to be more focused on improving this season’s roster than acquiring future assets. However, they’re unlikely to take on much salary in any deal, since they’re only about $3.4MM below the luxury tax threshold, Bonnell notes.

If the Hornets were to fall out of the playoff picture, they could explore the trade market for 2019 free-agents-to-be like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky, per Bonnell. However, it would require a major slump to slip out of the playoff race in the East, where the ninth-seeded Heat have an 11-16 record.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • While the Wizards were something of a third wheel in last week’s trade that primarily featured the Cavaliers and Bucks, their involvement shouldn’t be overlooked. Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington explored the impact of Jason Smith‘s departure on the locker room and on Smith himself, while Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington spoke to Sam Dekker about becoming a Wizard.
  • Mohamed Bamba sat out the Magic‘s most recent game on Monday after violating team rules, head coach Steve Clifford said, per ESPN.com. “It’s just bad on my part, and I need to be better. I’ve got to be on time,” Bamba said. He’s expected to return to Orlando’s lineup on Thursday night against Chicago.
  • In a pair of articles for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman explores whether the Heat will be able to continue to find enough minutes and opportunities for both Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones if and when their roster is fully healthy.

Wizards Notes: Wall, Smith, Dekker

John Wall is blaming an injury for his one-point performance in Saturday’s loss at Cleveland, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Wall has been suffering from a bone spur in his left heel and was treated for the condition after the game.

“It’s just like a bone spur but today it got really hot,” Wall told Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). “Probably shouldn’t have played. That’s my fault. … I’ve had it for a while. It comes and goes from days where it’s hot and today it’s like I really couldn’t run.”

Wall had six assists, but missed all five of his shots from the field and was pulled from the game late in the third quarter. Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton took advantage of the matchup to score a career-high 29 points. More concerning to the Wizards than Saturday’s loss is how the condition will affect Wall for the rest of the season.

“Some days it’s great. Some days it’s bad,” he said. “It come and go. You know what I mean? You just got to monitor when it’s good and when it’s bad, don’t try to force the issue and play with that one because it’s kind of hard. You can’t run. Today it just got real hot. It didn’t get no better.”

There’s more news out of Washington:

  • Concerns about effort and focus have haunted the Wizards throughout their 11-15 start and Cleveland center Tristan Thompson suggested that was an issue again Saturday night, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic“Obviously every team that comes in here is going to feel very relaxed and feel like they don’t have to put their best foot forward,” Thompson said of facing the six-win Cavaliers. “I know how teams come in and approach us because we used to be that team that would approach teams that are in a different stage or got a lot of younger players.”
  • The Wizards lowered their potential tax bill by shipping Jason Smith to the Bucks for Sam Dekker, but the move wasn’t popular in the locker room, Buckner writes in a separate story. Smith was only averaging about 11 minutes per night, but was was well liked by his teammates, who viewed him as a supportive and calming presence. “If you can go through things of ups and downs and sporadic seasons, playing or not playing and still be that happy of an individual and cheer people on and just continue to be an overall good dude, why can’t everybody be that?” Kelly Oubre asked. “He really taught me how to be a good human being, to be honest.”
  • Coach Scott Brooks promises that Dekker will get a chance to earn playing time. In an video clip tweeted by the team, Brooks says he likes Dekker’s “motor” and “athleticism” and calls him a “developing shooter.”

Bucks Acquire George Hill From Cavs

DECEMBER 8, 9:00am: As part of the deal, the Wizards also removed the protections on the 2020 second-round pick they owe the Bucks, reports Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). In summation, the trade looks like this, as Smith tweets:

  • Bucks receive George Hill, Jason Smith, cash considerations (from Wizards), the Wizards’ 2021 second-round pick (from Cavaliers), and the protections removed on the Wizards’ 2020 second-round pick.
  • Cavaliers receive John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, the Bucks’ 2021 first-round pick (protections detailed below), the Bucks’ 2021 second-round pick, and the Wizards’ 2022 second-round pick.
  • Wizards receive Sam Dekker.

DECEMBER 7, 9:25pm: The trade is official, according to a Cavaliers press release. as relayed by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.

6:20pm: The Wizards have agreed to make it a three-team deal by acquiring Dekker for big man Jason Smith and a second-round pick, Wojnarowski tweets. The Cavs will swap a 2021 second-rounder with Washington for a 2022 second-rounder, Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets.

5:05pm: The Bucks have agreed to acquire veteran guard George Hill from the Cavaliers in exchange for guard Matthew Dellavedova, injured center John Henson and first- and second-round picks in 2021, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Cleveland is also sending forward Sam Dekker to Milwaukee, Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets.

As always, the deal is contingent on the players passing physicals.

The Bucks will save approximately $18MM for the 2019/20 season with this move, which will increase their flexibility to make more moves next summer, Wojnarowski notes in a separate tweet. With Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe both on track to become free agents in July, that extra flexibility could be crucial.

The Cavs are showing a continued willingness to take on salary in order to acquire future assets, Wojnarowski adds.

There was a sense of urgency in getting this deal done on Friday. These players are now eligible to be aggregated on the February 7th trade deadline, Wojnarowski points out in another tweet. Thus, these players can be combined with other contracts in a deadline deal.

While Cleveland is technically acquiring Milwaukee’s 2021 first-rounder in the deal, it’s likely to get pushed back to 2022. That’s because the first-rounder that Milwaukee owes Phoenix next summer almost certainly won’t change hands until 2020, as it’s protected 1-3 and 17-30 for 2019. Since teams can’t trade future first-round picks in back-to-back seasons, the Cavs would have to wait an extra year to get their pick from Milwaukee.

There are protections on the first-round pick going to Cleveland, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link). The first-rounder is protected 1-14 in 2021; 1-10 in 2022; 1-10 and 25-30 in 2023; and 1-8 in 2024. If still not conveyed by then, it converts to two second-rounders in 2025.

Hill is making $19MM this season but his $18MM salary for next season doesn’t become fully guaranteed until July 1. Only $1MM is guaranteed, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Milwaukee will almost assuredly cut him loose before then, eating his $1MM partial guarantee. However, Hill can be a contributor this season on a playoff contender.

He joins a guard rotation that includes Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. The addition of Hill would seemingly reduce Donte DiVincenzo‘s minutes.

Henson is making $11.3MM this season and has a $10.5MM guarantee for next season in the final year of his deal. He recently underwent wrist surgery and could miss the rest of the season.

Dellavedova, who will begin his second stint in Cleveland, is making $9.6MM this season and the same amount next season.

Dekker is making $2.76MM and Milwaukee would have to extend a $3.9MM qualifying offer after the season to make him a restricted free agent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Leonsis, Beal, Satoransky, Brown

A couple of recent comments by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis suggest he is running short on patience with the team’s 1-7 start, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Leonsis, who attended Saturday’s debut game for the G League’s Capital City Go-Go, responded to a comment from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about increased scoring around the league. “They just have to play us,” Leonsis said about teams wanting to score more points.

Leonsis was still frustrated after watching his team surrender 79 points in the first half — and 134 overall — in Friday’s loss to the Thunder. “When you score 125 points and you’re losing by 25, it usually says you need to play a little bit of defense,” he said afterward. “Right now, we really have to get a structure in place and especially defend the three-ball.”

Leonsis issued a “no-excuses” ultimatum to the organization before the start of the season, making it clear that he expected a title contender. Hughes notes that Leonsis has a right to want a return on his investment after giving the team a $133MM payroll, a highly paid head coach and a newly built, state-of-the-art practice facility.

There’s more today out of Washington:

  • The Wizards are paying the price for years of failing to make bold moves, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. They traded away a lottery pick in 2009 and passed on the chance to get Stephen Curry; they let a team leader in Paul Pierce get away and replaced him with Jared Dudley; and they refused to admit that last year’s problems went beyond John Wall‘s extended absence with a knee injury. An unidentified scout predicts major changes in Washington once the season ends, saying, “April 9, “That’s it for these guys.”
  • All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal says the team has to ignore the negativity in order to turn the season around, Lee shares in the same piece. Beal is putting together his best season, posting a 23.1/4.0/3.8 line through eight games, but it hasn’t translated into victories. “I’m a leader of this team,” he said. “I’ve been here for seven years. I refuse to have any type of ship sinking. I can’t let it sink without fighting.”
  • Hughes offers several suggestions for coach Scott Brooks to shake things up in a separate story. His ideas include changing the starting lineup, giving more minutes to Tomas Satoransky or rookie Troy Brown and offering Jason Smith or Thomas Bryant a chance to crack the rotation.

Wizards Notes: Brown, Mahinmi, Meeks, Go-Go

Rookie swingman Troy Brown has multiple skills and can handle multiple positions, but he’ll have to battle for playing time at each one, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 15th player selected in this year’s draft, Brown excels at handling the ball, passing, rebounding and playing defense. The Wizards were happy with his performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he spent time at point guard as well as his more natural positions of shooting guard and small forward.

However, the 19-year-old won’t have an easy path toward getting minutes at any of those spots. All-stars John Wall and Bradley Beal are entrenched as the starting backcourt, and Austin Rivers was picked up in an offseason trade to provide depth. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre will see most of the playing time at small forward, along with free agent addition Jeff Green.

Hughes suggests that Washington may see Brown as a long-term prospect and could use him at both the G League and NBA levels this season.

There’s more out of Washington:

  • The Wizards got to see more of backup center Ian Mahinmi last season, but not enough to justify his sizable contract, Hughes states in a separate piece. Injuries forced Mahinmi to miss 51 games in his first season after signing a four-year, $64MM deal, but he rebounded to play 77 games last year. He will remain the backup center after Washington signed Dwight Howard to replace Marcin Gortat, who was traded to the Clippers. Howard averages more minutes per game, which will limit Mahinmi’s role, as will the use of smaller lineups that could feature Markieff Morris or Green at center.
  • Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith will both be trying to improve after disappointing seasons, Hughes adds in another story. Meeks appeared in 77 games last year after two injury-filled seasons, but his numbers were down sharply in every category from his best years. He will start this season by serving the remaining 19 games of a 25-game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug program. Smith was healthy last year, but was only used in 33 games, and the addition of Green will continue to block his playing time. Both players will be free agents next summer.
  • Candace Buckner of The Washington Post chronicles today’s tryouts for the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s new G League affiliate. Ninety-three players showed up in hopes of winning one or two invitations to the new team’s training camp.

Wizards’ Jason Smith Opts In For Next Season

JUNE 30th, 8:04am: Smith has officially opted in, according to the RealGM transactions log.

MAY 16th, 4:20pm: Wizards center/power forward Jason Smith has exercised his $5.45MM option for next season, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

The 32-year-old had a player option as part of a three-year, $16MM contract he signed as a free agent in 2016. He appeared in just 33 games this season, averaging 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per night.

Smith’s decision pushes the Wizards above the $119MM mark in guaranteed salary for next season, dangerously close to the projected $123MM luxury tax. Washington is still waiting on a decision from Jodie Meeks, who can opt out of a $3,454,500 salary.

Draft Rumors: Nuggets, Trades, Cavs, Wizards

The Kings (No. 2), Hawks (No. 3), and Grizzlies (No. 4) all consider to explore the possibility of trading down in the draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday night on the network’s Mock Draft Special (Twitter link via Sagar Trika). According to Wojnarowski, the Clippers are one team looking to move up and so are the Nuggets, who would love to get into the top five or six (Twitter link via Trika).

Although we hear whispers about possible trades in the lottery every year, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) gets the sense that this year could be a little different. According to Mannix, there’s a “growing sense” among many team executives that there could be some major deals completed early in the draft.

Here are several more draft-related rumors worth relaying, with 2018’s big night just two days away:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few more draft tidbits during ESPN’s Mock Draft Special, per Trika (all Twitter links). According to Woj, the Magic are high on both Trae Young and Collin Sexton, there’s strong mutual interest between Mikal Bridges and the Sixers, and the Warriors will be looking to buy a second-round pick in the 30s.
  • Multiple sources, including NBA execs, agents, and scouts, believe that the Cavaliers will select Michael Porter Jr. if he’s on the board at No. 8, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. However, the odds of Porter still being available at that point seem to be dwindling.
  • The Wizards are letting teams know that they’re open to trading down from No. 15 if a team is willing to take on one of Washington’s expiring contracts, a league source tells Ben Standig of The Sports Capitol. Marcin Gortat ($13.57MM) and Jason Smith ($5.45MM) look like a couple of the club’s prime trade candidates.
  • Jake Fischer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com spoke to 10 anonymous scouts around the NBA to get their thoughts on Luka Doncic, Trae Young, the Cavaliers‘ pick, and several more draft-related topics.

John Wall Displeased With Wizards’ Roster?

Fresh off a loss to the Raptors in Game 6 of the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, Wizards’ point guard John Wall spoke at length on Saturday about changes he’d like to see to the Wizards’ roster next season, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. When asked what type of players should be added to the roster, Wall pulled no punches, yet was quick to assure that his postseason evaluation was not directed at any particular teammates.

“There’s a lot that we can use. I really don’t have to say certain positions. There are certain things that people who have been around the team understand what we could use to help our team. It’s not throwing shade to anybody that is on our team because everyone that is on our roster gave everything they have to make it work and fit with the team, but at the same time, when it’s not working and then you try and you try and you try and it keeps failing over and over, then you have to make certain adjustments and certain changes.”

Wall further elaborated, telling reporters he is in support of the Wizards bringing in an “athletic big”, which could of course be interpreted as a slight at Marcin Gortat, who clashed with Wall when Wall was injured earlier this season, and little-used big man Ian Mahinmi who, in hindsight, was grossly overpaid in the spend-happy summer of 2016. Combined, Gortat and Mahinmi will make just north of $29.5MM next season.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, adding worthwhile free agents this offseason, per Wall’s imploring, will be no easy task. Washington already has nearly $116MM tied up in guaranteed contracts for 2018/19, not counting player options for Jason Smith and Jodie Meeks. Should both players opt in, the Wizards payroll would reach $124.8MM – $1.8MM more than next year’s projected luxury tax threshold of $123MM and nearing the apron – before free agency even begins.

Given that the $124.8MM figure only includes 10 players, the Wizards best tool will likely be their taxpayer mid-level exception, which is projected to be about $3.3MM less than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and limited to three seasons rather than four. Players looking to cash in on a MLE deal this offseason stand to make about an additional $19.2MM over the life of a non-taxpayer MLE contract, thereby lessening the Wizards’ chances of luring meaning free agents to the nation’s capital this summer. For his part, Wall thinks players should nevertheless entertain the idea of coming to Washington.

“I think those guys that are watching and seeing understand what they can add and what we might need to make our team better to finally get over the second round or get through the first round like we didn’t this year.”

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Washington Wizards

The Wizards made the bold decision to commit max money to three organization grown players long-term and will permanently have their hands full managing their finances as a result. In order to make the strategy work, they’ll need to be responsible with where they spend the rest of their budget.

While the club already projects to dip into the luxury tax this season and next (with over $29MM in guaranteed money tied up in Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi in 2018/19 alone), they’ll get a chance to practice financial restraint this summer with a handful of free agents that they can afford to part ways with if they feel the need to.

Tim Frazier, PG, 27 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.1MM deal in 2016
One season removed from a fantastic stint as a spot starter in New Orleans in 2016/17, Frazier hasn’t had much of an impact since coming over in a draft day trade last June. The Wizards were in need of a reliable backup point guard when they targeted Frazier but seem to have grown comfortable with the idea of Tomas Satoransky handling backup point guard duties in John Wall‘s absence. For that reason, Frazier will probably have to choose between rounding out the club’s rotation as a third-string playmaker or look elsewhere.

Sheldon Mac, SG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $1.8MM deal in 2016
A torn Achilles has rendered Mac unable to suit up in 2017/18. He’ll hit restricted free agency in the summer but don’t expect any suitors until he can prove that he’s healthy enough to battle for a rotation spot. That’ll likely have to happen in the G League.

Chris McCullough, PF, 23 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3,8MM deal in 2015
The Wizards, to this point, have shown little interested in working McCullough into their rotation. The 23-year-old showed some flashes of promise during his rookie campaign with the Nets in 2015/16 but then again many fringe NBA players have looked half-decent in Brooklyn’s lineup the last few years. If all goes well, McCullough will find another squad to break training camp with next fall. It’s hard to say whether or not there will be much more beyond that.

Jodie Meeks, SG, 30 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $6.7MM deal in 2017
After several years of struggling to stay on the court, Meeks has shown that he can contribute modestly off the bench. While his player option for 2018/19 comes in at a rather cheap $3.5MM for a player with his experience, don’t be surprised if the veteran elects to return. There may be a team out there willing to give the career .417 three-point shooter more than that on the open market but an argument can be made that Meeks could benefit more in the long run from simply focusing on staying healthy and relevant where he is, while worrying about free agency in 2019.

Mike Scott, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2017
The Wizards got a key rotation piece for dirt cheap over the summer and the forward has done nothing but raise his stock over the course of the season. Expect teams to take an interest in the veteran role player with impressive efficiency numbers and the ability to put points on the board. Washington would likely be happy to retain him but will be limited in what they can offer him.

Jason Smith, C, 32 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $15.7MM deal in 2016
Smith hit free agency at the perfect time back in 2016. This summer, in contrast, teams won’t be so willing to cough up significant money for career reserves with forgettable portfolios. Smith’s stints with the Magic, Knicks and Pelicans hardly justified the contract he signed two summers ago but he’s done even less since arriving in Washington. For that reason, expect him to accept his $5.5MM player option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Expectations, McCullough, Robinson

The moves made this offseason by the Celtics and Cavaliers – including a blockbuster trade with one another – has allowed those two clubs to dominate the conversation on Eastern Conference contenders as the 2017/18 season approaches. However, the Wizards feel as if they’re right there with the top two clubs in the East. In fact, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, Bradley Beal and the Wizards think they’re the best team in the East, and believe they match up particularly well vs. the Cavs.

“We love the matchup against them and why not?” Beal said. “I said it and J.R. [Smith] didn’t like it too much, some of their other guys didn’t like it too much. But I felt that way. It’s not disrespect with them, I’m not saying we’d have won the series (if the Wizards, instead of the Celtics, had made the Eastern Conference Finals), but I feel like our competition level and matchups would’ve been better.”

As the Wizards head into a new season with increased expectations, let’s round up a few more notes out of D.C.

  • Third-year forward Chris McCullough, acquired from the Nets last season, is battling for minutes in the Wizards’ rotation, and head coach Scott Brooks has been impressed, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details. “He’s a better shooter than I thought,” Brooks said of McCullough. “He hasn’t played much the last few years, but he’s having a good camp. I think that’s through the hard work that he’s put in. He came into camp in great shape. He’s showing us that he can play in the league. I don’t know where I can find him the minutes, but at least I know he can definitely play.”
  • With Markieff Morris at risk of being convicted on assault charges, which would result in an NBA suspension, the Wizards have been keeping a close eye on their power forwards during their first week back, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Veteran center Jason Smith is among the players seeing extra time at the four, per Buckner.
  • Wizards rookie Devin Robinson, who is on a two-way contract with the team, was in a walking boot at training camp last week, and Brooks suggests that Robinson will be out “for a while” due to a foot injury, tweets Buckner. The G League season doesn’t tip off until November 3, so Robinson has a little extra time to get healthy.
  • As we noted yesterday, the Wizards are one of four NBA teams without a G League affiliate for this season, which will have an impact on Robinson, Michael Young, and anyone else Washington wants to assign to the G League.